Indiana has a tall task in trying to make its second bowl game since 1993. The Hoosiers went just 1-11 last season and failed to beat a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision. Since the start of the 2008 season, Indiana has won a total of just three Big Ten games despite going 10-6 in non-conference games over that same span.
Second-year coach Kevin Wilson has his work cut out for him to guide this squad to a spot in the postseason.
Best-case scenario: Indiana continues to do one thing well -- beat non-conference opponents. The Hoosiers have little trouble using a re-tooled defense featuring five junior college transfers and an improved offense behind dynamic sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson to dump Indiana State, Massachusetts and Ball State before a mid-season trip to Annapolis to face Navy. The real key is the league schedule. The Hoosiers open on the road against a Northwestern side featuring a new quarterback and defense coming off a poor season, a game they manage to win in a shootout. But then a matchup with Michigan State and Ohio State in Bloomington are just too much to overcome. However, a victory against the Midshipmen propels the team down the stretch to upset a rebuilding Penn State in State College for Indiana's first-ever win against the Nittany Lions. A 6-6 finish, two Big Ten wins and a bowl berth change the direction of this program.
Worst-case scenario: The Hoosiers would open with a victory over Indiana State but after that the wheels come off quickly. An embarrassing road loss at re-classified Massachusetts would open the floodgates for another defeat at home to Ball State in a primetime game. With the offense sputtering, Wilson turns to backup quarterbacks Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld to try to jump-start the attack in a move that only makes things worse. The defense also struggles behind the junior college transfers who can't find a role in the unit as the team goes winless for the second straight year in the conference. Oh, and since it's "worst case," rival Purdue finds a way to win the Big Ten.
Most-likely scenario: The Hoosiers are a much improved side with a solid influx of talent from junior college players and a potentially dynamic offensive leader in Roberson. But despite a strong non-conference start, the team struggles in the Big Ten. It does manage to pull off an upset during league play but too many close losses lead to a 5-7 record and another December home for the holidays.
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